UK's dirtiest beaches named and shamed as popular seaside spot handed 'Brown Flag'

The tongue in cheek brown poo flags are given out to the dirtiest beaches
The tongue in cheek brown poo flags are given out to the dirtiest beaches -Credit:The Mirror

Popular seaside spots feature on a list of the UK’s dirtiest beaches with released with “brown flags” issued to the most filthy. Among those was Porthluney beach in Cornwall.

But the area as a whole was England's fourth cleanest county for swimming in the sea in summer, reports the Mirror. Those with the highest percentage of 'excellent' beaches for clean water are Meanwhile Dorset, Devon and Suffolk.

That is according to UK travel site Holiday Park Guru. It used Environment Agency summer water quality data from hundreds of beaches.

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As a result, it has pin-pointed the 13 dirtiest beaches, which are being offered 'Brown Flag Awards'. The brown flags feature a poo emoji to display for swimmers.

The Environment Agency rates these beaches as 'poor' due to bacteria such as e-coli from sewage and other waste. Overall, 81 per cent of Cornwall's beaches are considered 'excellent' for the quality of their sea water. Dorset scored 89 per cent while Devon scored 86 per cent. Cornwall had the highest number of designated bathing beaches that are rated as 'excellent' of any county in England - but the region also has the highest number of total beaches.

Lancashire in the North West of England came bottom of England's league table with none of its 10 designated bathing spots achieving the coveted three-star ‘excellent’ rating for cleanliness. Somerset, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Kent were all in the bottom half of the league table. The Isle of Wight, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Essex performed well, with all of their designated bathing areas gaining one of the top two ratings (‘good’ or ‘excellent’).

"We’re hoping to make a real splash in the papers with the launch of England’s first ever 'Brown Flag Awards'," said keen sea-swimmer Robbie Lane, from Holiday Park Guru. "Commiserations to our 13 winners this year – you really are top of the plops.

"We just hope they’ll take up our offer of a free brown flag, although I’m afraid we can’t quite afford to provide a flagpole as well. On a more positive note, high praise is warranted for England's 273 beaches with the top rating for their water quality - including 72 beaches."

What has to be taken into consideration is the Environment Agency only includes water quality readings from May 15 to September 30 when giving ratings to bathing areas. Sea water quality tends to be worse in winter after heavy rain.

Holiday Park Guru adds it is intended as a tongue-in-cheek award to support the campaign for cleaner beaches. The Brown Flag Awards are reserved for those select beaches which score a ‘poor’ rating (or should that be ‘poo rating’) from the Environment Agency’s water quality tests."

The Brown Flag Awards Winners 2024

  1. Porthluney in Cornwall

  2. Southsea East in Hampshire

  3. Saint Mary’s Bay in Kent

  4. Littlestone in Kent

  5. Blackpool North in Lancashire

  6. St Annes North in Lancashire

  7. Heacham in Norfolk

  8. Weston Main, Weston Super Mare Sand Bay and Weston Super Mare Uphill Slipway in Somerset

  9. Dunster Beach in Somerset

  10. Bognor Regis, Aldwick in Sussex

  11. Tynemouth Cullercoats in Tyne and Wear

  12. Scarborough South Bay in North Yorkshire

  13. Bridlington South Beach in East Riding of Yorkshire

County-by-county league table for clean beaches

For the 2024 county league table Holiday Park Guru analysed data at every designated bathing beach in England. It looked at the percentage of beaches in each county that achieved the Environment Agency’s top rating for water cleanliness (three stars = “excellent”).

From best to worst, the percentage of beaches rated 'excellent' by the Environment Agency for sea water cleanliness,are as follows:

  1. Dorset: 89%

  2. Devon: 86%

  3. Suffolk: 83%

  4. Cornwall: 81%

  5. Tyne and Wear: 78%

  6. Northumberland: 77%

  7. Lincolnshire: 77%

  8. Hampshire and New Forest: 75%

  9. Isle of Wight: 73%

  10. Merseyside: 57%

  11. Essex: 53%

  12. Sussex: 52%

  13. Cumbria: 50%

  14. Norfolk: 50%

  15. Kent: 45%

  16. Yorkshire: 40%

  17. County Durham: 16%

  18. Somerset: 10%

  19. Lancashire 0%

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